No mask? No problem.
2022 Outside Lands, the annual music festival in Golden Gate Park, kicked off Friday like 2019. The outdoor event, expecting 220,000 fans over three days, was back in its usual place on the Bay Area’s summer concert calendar and with no strict health protocols, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the newly declared state of emergency related to the monkeypox outbreak in San Francisco.
“This year you don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to show proof of vaccination, you don’t have to do some of the things you’ve done in the past,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed explained in a news conference with festival producers Another Planet Entertainment on the eve of the event. “I know we have our challenges in a big city like San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the opportunity to have a good time… Just be mindful. If you don’t feel well, don’t come.”
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This policy, in accordance with the City and County of San Francisco, is in stark contrast to the restrictions imposed at last year’s festival, which required guests to present proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for COVID upon entry.
But after nearly three pandemic years on high alert, attitudes appear to have changed. As seen throughout the festival site, concerns about COVID seemed minimal as thousands of attendees gathered outside the event’s four concert stages on Friday, August 5 and to early performances by experimental Oakland pop singer Spellling and rapper Duckwrth and singer-songwriter Faye screeched and danced to Webster.
“I’m not overly concerned,” said Ben Depew of Fremont, who attended the festival last year and 2019. “I had COVID and am vaccinated. This helps.”
Depew and his friend Max Li, who also attended Outside Lands 2021, both noted that far fewer people appeared to be masked at this year’s festival, the event’s 14th incarnation. Both were revealed themselves speaking to The Chronicle but said they had masks and planned to wear them in crowds and enclosed spaces.
Nikki Edmiston, also from Fremont, works in healthcare and also shrugged off COVID concerns.
“By this point, I think everyone will understand,” she said.
As for monkeypox, festival-goers like San Francisco’s Grady Davis admitted that “we don’t know that much about” the viral disease. “(I) wear long sleeves because, as far as we know, it’s mostly spread through close contact.”
Something that sparked some debate: the Outside Lands’ signature windmills—or, for that matter, their absence.
The twin domed wooden windmills that stood in the center of the polo field in Golden Gate Park across from the festival’s main stage each year were replaced with a single tower windmill made of glass and steel.
This modern, streamlined version of the previous building, which has served as a meeting place and backdrop for countless photos over the years, also no longer bears the Outside Lands logo. Although larger than the old one, it didn’t seem to have the same appeal to festival-goers on the first day of the festival, which lasts until Sunday 7 August.
“I was pretty disappointed because I thought they were pretty iconic,” said Sean Morrow of San Diego, who said he’s visited Outside Lands nearly a dozen times.
As the sun peeked out of the clouds over Golden Gate Park on Friday, most festival-goers — including the artists in the lineup — seemed happy to be up close and personal again.
“I love you, Bay Area!” Spellling told the crowd during their festival opening set on the Sutro stage. “It’s good to play a home show.”
For more updates from the festival, visit datebook.sfchronicle.com.
The Chronicle’s senior arts and entertainment editor Mariecar Mendoza and pop music writer Aidin Vaziri contributed to this story.